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The power of choice: Dickinson Middle schoolers learn about consequences of choices during Teen Maze

Students at Dickinson Middle School spent part of their day learning about the consequences of various decisions during the Teen Maze on Wednesday. (Sydney Mook / The Dickinson Press)1 / 2
Students at Dickinson Middle School spent part of their day learning about the consequences of various decisions during the Teen Maze on Wednesday. (Sydney Mook / The Dickinson Press)2 / 2

Students at Dickinson Middle School spent part of their day Wednesday talking with law enforcement, juvenile court and funeral home workers about the consequences of poor decisions and the outcomes of making good choices.

Teen Maze provides a hands-on learning activity for students to experience the consequences of a specific risky behavior and supports both positive and negative outcomes.

Different scenarios are used to bring these behaviors to life. One scenario might be an adolescent who goes to a party, drinks and then decides to drive home. He/she is stopped by the police, is cited for DUI and must appear in juvenile court. A member of the juvenile court would walk the student through the steps involved with this process. Next, the adolescent is sent to an insurance agent who will calculate his/her new, higher insurance rates.

As the scenario goes on, a number of different behaviors may take place. They may continue to drink and be referred for counseling. A counselor would screen the adolescent for addiction and provide the necessary services. If successful in counseling, he/she may go on to graduation. Other scenarios don't go so well and the student may end up saying goodbye to a friend or family member because of their drinking.

"It's about an opportunity for kids to experience or learn about risky choices, risky behaviors and learn about what some of the resources are in the community," said Stacy Kilwein with West Dakota Parent and Family Resource Center. "We have all of these community professionals who are donating their whole day and they are here visiting one-on-one with these kids, answering their questions, giving them resources. It's an amazing opportunity."

Becky Byzewski, one of the program coordinators, said it is important for the students to meet with and learn from the professionals so they can understand what's going on and what one bad decision can mean for them.

"We're hoping that it's going to give them a little bit of knowledge and power to make a better choice or a better decision if they should encounter any of these things," Byzewski said. "We want them to know who to go to for help because now they're going to meet all of these people and they're going to say, 'I remember when I talked to that one lady,' and they might make that call."

Jack Homiston, an eighth-grader at Dickinson Middle School, said his group's scenario involved cyber bullying a kid online. They had to talk to law enforcement about what happened before going to juvenile court and being put on probation. Their next stop was to the school counselor about the bullying.

"I learned about all of the steps in the process of bullying," he said. "It's such an easy thing to do but there's so many things you have to do if you get caught."

Grant Bittner, another eighth-grader, and his group were caught buying power supplements off of a commercial. The steroids made them sick and caused them to do badly in school. One of their first stops was to talk to the school counselor before going to the hospital. After improving, the group attended their "graduation" for their success.

Bittner said going through the scenarios was a learning experience.

"I think it's cool because if you ever thought about doing anything like this, you would know what happens and what the consequences are for doing it," he said.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook started working as the multimedia editor for The Press in January 2016.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

(701) 456-1207
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